Last Thursday, the Daily Mirror reported that Sen. Lisa Murkowski wanted the Senate to carry out its normal “advise and consent” function with the appointment of Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement on the Supreme Court.
One day later, we had to report that she changed her stance and now backs the play of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Charles Grassley to block any appointment by President Barack Obama.
“If POTUS ignores precedent, I believe extraordinary circumstances give the Senate every right to deny the nominee an up or down vote,” Murkowski wrote, but she didn’t say what would be so tragic about holding that hearing and taking that vote.
Both parties have used this “precedent” canard when opposed to the president and both have called foul from the other side.
McConnell said the people should get a chance to vote for president first — as if we didn’t do that in 2012. He invokes the ironically-named “Biden Rule,” which he derided in 1992, about nominations during lame-duck presidential years.
The Democrats have their own strategic conundrum: Should Obama nominate a moderate jurist and thus show up the Republicans’ obstructionism, or reach farther to the left since it won’t go through anyway?
Consideration of all those possible dynamics went into the system the Founders set up.
But leaders in neither party have noticed the more important concern of the populace: What does their standing in a party have to do with the Senate and president’s shared duty of finding a competent judge so the court can do our business?
Why can’t the Republicans use their majority to make the president pick a centrist?
They say, “We must carry out the will of voters.” We hear, “Our jockeying for power and party discipline is more important than our duty to the country.”
As usual in politics, you don’t have to go far before a contradiction smacks you in the face.
In their over-sensitivity to popular will and polling, the party strategists shoot ever wider off the mood of the country. How can members of the entrenched blocs miss the message in the campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, who draw massive support not by espousing adherence to their nominal party lines, but by flaunting independence from it?
Office holders of any party have to balance the pull of the small-d democratic duty to do whatever the people want and the small-r republican duty to use their own best judgment.
In his oft-quoted farewell message, George Washington wrote a reasoned, patriotic warning against foreign entanglements and factionalism.
He had not put down the pen before the United States went to war against France, our closest, most powerful ally, and John Adams and Thomas Jefferson battled for the presidency in a vitriolic, partisan mud-slinging match that’s still embarrassing to read about.
Lost in the positioning and strategizing is any sense of who our representatives are as people.
Even at the local level, every utterance goes through vetting shaped by fear of lawsuits and political repercussions. They won’t issue a simple, sincere, neighborly apology when a citizen gets hurt for fear of potential legal consequences — a moot consideration, since these days people will as likely sue for inaction as for action.
British novelist Patrick O’Brian wrote, “Authority is the solvent of humanity: look at any husband, any father of a family, and note the assumption of the person by the persona, the individual by the role.”
It’s a shame we have to ask our leaders, “What do you really think?”
— Kodiak Daily Mirror,